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When I told my family and friends about this incredible opportunity, they were extremely curious about what this experience would look like. I said that this program was made to grow connections with people across the globe, help Vietnamese children learn how to thrive in the real world, and get to know one another throughout the process.

There were several reasons why I chose ACE in Place: Vietnam. The first reason was that I was very invested in seeing what I could do as a student-athlete representing Duke University. I learned a lot about myself over these three weeks, especially how I feel on the inside. I realized that I am very good at making people smile, laugh, and enjoy the fun times we had with one another.

I realized that my ability to come up with ideas is a lot better than I expected, and these ideas helped the Vietnamese children learn better. The Vietnamese children told me how much they loved me, how much they supported me, and how much they wanted me to succeed. That was something I wasn’t expecting from this experience, and I am forever a different person because of it.

“Another reason I chose this virtual program was because of how much I missed my family, and I wanted to make everything the best of both worlds.”

– Seamus Harding, Duke Men’s Swimming and Diving

Another reason I chose this virtual program was because of how much I missed my family, and I wanted to make everything the best of both worlds. I wasn’t expecting to get overly personal on this post, but I decided to, to make it worthwhile. There have been some family issues this past year at home, and I wasn’t there to make it all better. I decided to do this program because I can be at home, help my siblings feel better, and be an amazing shoulder for my brothers and sister to lean on.

When I came home from school this Summer Session, I realized they needed me a lot more than I thought. I divided my attention into three parts during my ACE experience:

  • Working with my Vietnamese colleagues
  • Working with the Vietnamese children
  • Hanging out with my three built-in best friends

As much as I wished I could go to Vietnam and teach the Vietnamese youth in-person, the online version was perfect for me this summer. I am incredibly interested in going in-person next summer and helping through CFC or ACE again. I feel that I put my all into making these Vietnamese children have better confidence in themselves to make them think they can rule the world. Their smiles and interest in what I do across the ocean made me extremely happy, and I felt that I did my job at the end of the day.

This experience was something that I never thought would be this fantastic over Zoom. It was probably the most fun I have had in a long time, and I never felt insecure about who I was as an individual human being. The experience was so real, raw, and down-to-earth that I would absolutely love to do it again. The people I met along the way were unique, and we became so close.

I want to give a huge shoutout and a big thank you to my Vietnamese co-workers on the Red Team, Tuong Vy and Anh Cao Minh Nguyen. We talked about things that were so personal and so sacred that I will forever have my trust in them. They made this experience so much better, and I loved seeing their faces every day because they always had smiles on their faces and were ready to work!

“The experience was so real, raw, and down-to-earth that I would absolutely love to do it again. The people I met along the way were unique, and we became so close.”

– Seamus Harding, Duke Men’s Swimming and Diving

Although this experience wasn’t in-person, I learned so much about the Vietnamese culture because of our cultural exchange nights, such as giving house tours, making Vietnamese treats, and talking about our favorite holidays. I think I received as much of a welcome to Vietnam as I could get being online, which was absolutely spectacular. The Vietnamese co-workers were also so fascinated by how some of us were in different time zones in the United States and how there were states in the United States that were larger than the entire nation of Vietnam. Even though we saw the kids twice a week, they looked forward to seeing our videos and what we would teach them day-to-day. That brought me so much joy and made me very emotional to say goodbye.

Even though the ACE program was three weeks, the experience felt like a lifetime. I wished I had said this when we all hung up on our last meeting, but I will say it here, “It is not a goodbye; it’s a see you later.”

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